The Ministry of Justice has announced the launch of its consultation on the draft charter for the current coroner service.

The draft charter creates national standards which seek to address inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the delivery of the coronial service, which itself will, for the time being, remain under local management following the Government’s announcement that it will not be implementing the provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (the Act) which envisaged a more national system under the leadership of a Chief Coroner as well as a new appeals process. The aim of the charter is to produce a document which is user friendly and sets out the standard of service that users can expect to receive.

It is proposed that the charter will be incorporated into the current guide to coroners and inquests. The aim is to publish the final version of the charter by the end of the year. However it is envisaged that the charter will be updated when the provisions in the Act are eventually implemented.

It is based on the draft charter which was produced in anticipation that the provisions of the Act would be implemented but with a number of changes to reflect the fact that those provisions will not in fact being coming into force for the foreseeable future. The main changes are:  

  • the standards in the charter are intended to apply to witnesses and other properly interested parties as well as the bereaved;
  • it describes the minimum standards that users of the service can expect to receive, including time limits within which the coroner will do certain things;
  • a flow chart illustrates the process of an inquest once a death has been reported to the coroner;
  • there are of course no references to the Chief Coroner or a complaints and appeals system; and
  • it sets out how to complain about the coroner and his staff and how to challenge a coroner’s decision.

There are no startling changes but rather it is a guide to good practice and will be of interest to those of you involved in inquest work.